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Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay, and Joanna Lumley deliver bravura performances in this bittersweet tale of class, friendship, and aging, adapted by Andrew Davies (Moll Flanders) from the novel by Angela Lambert.

Finney plays upper-crust ladies' man Reggie Conyngham-Jervis, an ex-RAF squadron leader who imagines himself in the thick of the Battle of Britain whenever he's cut off in traffic. Courtenay is retired milkman Roy Southgate, a reticent working-class bloke who saw his war service entirely on the ground.

Reggie and Roy meet when their wives die in the same hospital on the same day, and are thrown into an improbable relationship when a social worker arranges for them to live together for companionship in Reggie's mansion.

Reggie quickly establishes the protocol: Roy cooks and cleans and is called "Southgate;" Reggie wines, dines, and chain-smokes and is addressed as "Squadron Leader."

Their growing bond is complicated by classy boutique owner Liz (Lumley), who sees Reggie's supposed riches as a life preserver for her failing finances. Hoping for marriage, she lets him seduce her. What Liz doesn't know is that Reggie's modest allowance from his wife's estate will disappear when he dies -- which, given his lifestyle, could be any day.

Like everyone else in A Rather English Marriage, Liz is just trying to cope with life's bad hand: like Reggie, who claims to be childless, but once had a young daughter who died; or Roy, whose seemingly perfect marriage produced two decidedly imperfect children. Unfortunately, these losses only get worse, and end up driving Reggie and Roy to each other.

The screen chemistry between Finney and Courtenay is a highlight of A Rather English Marriage, their first film appearance together since The Dresser, the 1983 classic about an aging Shakespearean actor and his obsequious assistant. In 1997, they teamed up in London for the hit play Art. Both actors trace their careers to gritty classics of 1960s cinema: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning for Finney (before his big role in Tom Jones), and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner for Courtenay.


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